Avalon City Council Rejects Renaming U/W Park for Jon Hardy

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Posted by Ken Kurtis on October 17, 2001 at 14:03:35:

(I'm really going to try not to sound TOO bitter or disappointed by this.)

The Avalon City Council last night rejected a request from the diving community to rename the U/W Park in honor of the late Jon Hardy. Although the proposal had widespread support from all factions of the diving industry, and had seemingly met with initial interest & enthusiasm from Council members (with special thanks going out to Councilman Tim Winslow for his continued support of the idea right down to the end), as word of the proposal spread, there was some resistance from a few locals, most notably Chris Clasen, whose parents, Carl & Maggie Koehler, started the Park when they were the owners of Catalina Divers Supply. (Chris feels it should be named in their honor.) As local resistance (always prefaced with "No disrespect meant to Jon, but . . . ") appeared, only Councilman Winslow stood fast to the idea.

34 letters (but only 6 from local Avaloners) were submitted to the Council supporting the idea, representing a wide range of the diving community from cert agencies to mfgs to publications to shops to clubs to individual instructors and even individual divers. I knew we were in deep trouble, though, when the Mayor Bud Smith prefaced the whole thing by referring to the 28 letters submitted through me by non-Avalon diving concerns and said, "I've got a stack of letters here supporting this but I don't recognize even one name."

Another factor that hurt the effort was a lack of positive local support (with a few exceptions, most notably Tina Kennedy) either by support letter or in person at the Council meeting. Many in the Avalon-based diving community told me they liked the idea, but few went on record in favor if it. I spoke in favor of the measure as did Tina (and one other person) but there were about six or seven others who spoke against it on the grounds that there were other Avalon divers who the speakers felt made as great a contribution as did Jon, and felt it was inappropriate to single him out.

I tried to float the notion that, since Jon commanded a national stage, this was larger than just an Avalon issue, that it would raise the stature of the park, it would generate favorable publicity, and would be good for business. Unfortunately, the issues seemed (IMVBO) to get back to a very narrow Avalon orientation, and even started focusing on whether or not Jon had specifically done enough for the Underwater Park to merit its being renamed in his honor.

Council staff had made four recommendations for the Council to consider: (1) Rename the Park after Jon, (2) Dedicate a wall plaque at the Park to Jon, (3) Do an underwater plaque (like the one for Cousteau) for Jon, or (4) Make a plaque honoring all Avalon dive pioneers, perhaps as many as 30-50 judging from the names bandied about last night, with Jon's name perhaps to be included among the group, pending research and review by a committee.

After about an hour of discussion from both the audience and among the Council members themselves, the Council was clearly uncomfortable with the first three (one concern voiced - especially about #2 and #3 - was that EVERYONE would want a memorial plaque and the place would start to look like a graveyard) and a motion was made to adopt #4, which they did unanimously (5-0). It seems that they'll now form some sort of a committee to screen candidates as to who should appear on this plaque, which (based on what was said last night) seems like it will go into the Catalina Museum so, in the words on one Council member, " . . . everyone can see it." (Except divers in dripping wetsuits of course, but I didn't feel like making that point.)

As I was leaving the Council chambers, I overheard one member say, "Hey, how are we going to pay for all this?" My personal opinion is that the salute-all-the-divers-plaque will never see the light of day due to procedure problems (what are the criteria for being listed?), lack of funding, and no driving force behind it.

One very true thing that was said last night was that even though Jon would have felt renaming the Park would have been a great honor, he also would have felt very uncomfortable that the decision to do so should merit such discussion or generate controversy and would have asked for the idea to be abandoned. So maybe it's best in the long run. I still think it would have been a great thing for both Jon and Avalon.

To those of you who thought this was a good idea, thank you. To those who took time to write a letter in support (even if the Mayor didn't know who you were) thank you even more. To those of you who MEANT to write a letter but just couldn't find the time to do it . . . let's remember our experience here when it comes time to fight the next battle. A lot of times in this industry (again, IMVBO), complacency thwarts a lot of our good intentions.

Enough for my being bitter and disappointed. Life goes on.

Ken Kurtis
NAUI Instr. #5936
Co-owner, Reef Seekers Dive Co.
Beverly Hills, Ca.

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